Tourism shows signs of resurgenceInternational airlines serving Nepal are witnessing a surge in inbound bookings, with the tourist and festival seasons nearing.
International airlines serving Nepal are witnessing a surge in inbound bookings, with the tourist and festival seasons nearing.
According to travel agencies, almost every flight into Kathmandu is 80 percent booked beginning from the third week of September to October-end.
Most of the foreign carriers that were forced to cut flight frequency by more than half immediately after the April 25 earthquake have started rescheduling their normal frequency from September. There are 25 international airlines connecting Nepal.
The September-November period is Nepal’s peak tourist season, which accounts for as much as 35 percent of the year’s tourist arrivals. In addition, autumn is Nepal’s main festival season when thousands of migrant workers and other Nepalis living abroad return home to celebrate Dashain and Tihar with their families.
The current flight booking trend shows tourist arrivals to Nepal during September is likely to be modest. Travel agencies have reported advance inbound booking for the month has reached 50 percent so far. But October bookings show a sign of tourism resurgence. Bookings for November, however, are yet to pick up.
“Despite a healthy booking rate, tourist arrivals are not likely to be the same as the country had received during the September-November period last year, as foreign carriers are yet to resume their full-fledged operations,” said Deepak Basnet, senior ticketing executive at Osho World Travel Nepal.
A total 142,713 tourists arrived in Nepal via air during the Sept-Nov period last year.
Carriers from the Middle East, Malaysia, China and other destinations are more than 80 percent booked for October. However, reservations have not been good so far as far as Indian carriers are concerned.
According to Basnet, inbound reservation on China Southern Airlines has crossed 80 percent from Sept 20 to Oct 16. From mid-October onwards, the bookings have touched 90 percent until October-end.
China Southern, which connects Kathmandu from Guangzhou, operates two flights a week. It used to operate double daily flights before the earthquake. The carrier plans to operate daily flights from October 13 onwards.
Another Chinese carrier, Air China that had temporarily suspended its flights on the Chengdu-Lhasa-Kathmandu route has decided to resume operations with two weekly flights from Sept 20. Its flights have been booked more than 80 percent until October 26. The carrier will be adding one more flight from Oct 26 onwards.
China Eastern that used to operate double daily flights on Kunming-Kathmandu sector plans to resume normal operations from Oct 25. It is currently operating two weekly flights.
Advance reservation on China Eastern has crossed 80 percent from Sept 22 until the first week of November. New entrant Sichuan Airline’s flight reservation has crossed 80 percent from Sept 25 onwards.
Carriers from India have 50 percent bookings on an average from inbound travellers as of Aug 20.
Jet Airways, which operates two daily flights on the Delhi-Kathmandu sector, has 50 percent reservation so far for October. India’s national flag carrier Air India’s inbound bookings has been at 50 percent for until mid-September. However, its reservation has crossed 70 percent from the first week of October.
Nepal’s national flag carrier Nepal Airlines will operate 10 flights a week on the Kathmandu-Delhi sector from September 1, and its average inbound booking has reached 50 percent, according to travel agencies.
The agents said Qatar Airways was 70 percent booked for the period between September 18 to October 28. The carrier flies 28 weekly flights to Nepal. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is 70 percent booked from the beginning of October and has 50 percent reservations for September.
Two no-frills airlines—Fly Dubai and Air Arabia—are 80 percent reserved for the October season. However, they have 50 percent reservation for until Sept 20. Fly Dubai plans to operate three daily flights from September from the current 16 flights a week.
Oman Air, which operates double daily flights, is more than 70 percent booked for until Oct 26.
Inbound booking of the Turkish Airlines, the only airline connecting Nepal directly with Europe, has crossed 60 percent for the period between Sept 28 and October-end. Turkish had slashed flights to four weekly flights after the earthquake. From October 1, it plans to resume daily flights to Nepal.
Hong Kong-based Dragon Air is 80 percent booked for Sept 22 to Oct 25. It plans to resume daily flights to Nepal from Sept 1 from the current three weekly flights.
Singapore-based Silk Air and South Korea-based Korean Air flights are 75 percent booked for Oct 7 to Oct 28. Silk had slashed its frequency to three weekly flights after the quake and plans to operate four weekly flights from Sept 28.
Malaysia-based budget carrier Air Asia X is 80 percent booked for Sept 22 until October. Malaysia’s national flag barrier Malaysia Airlines that has been operating two daily flights is more than 80 percent booked for the last week of September until October-end.
“As a majority of Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia and the Middle East return to Nepal to celebrate festivals, airlines from there receive an unprecedented number of flyers in the period,” said Basnet.
As Nepalis usually book tickets late, they are usually are forced to pay more for tickets as demand goes up, travel agencies said.